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Nation Braces For More Violence Ahead Of Inauguration Day


State capitols all over this country went to high alert after President Trump's extremist supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol on January 6. Now, Joe Biden's inauguration is on Wednesday, and the alert level has gone even higher. NPR national correspondent Sarah McCammon has been monitoring this story. Good morning, Sarah.


KING: So you've been looking all around the country at what might erupt. What have you seen that's of note?

MCCAMMON: Well, there have been a few arrests in D.C. around the inauguration site in recent days, but at state capitols, things were mostly calm over the weekend. Our member station reporters have reported seeing small groups of protesters from a few dozen people - a few people to a few dozen people at most gathering in several states, including Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania, to name a few. But often, Noel, there were more reporters than protesters. And in Georgia, one of our colleagues reported seeing a few guys with some long guns. But that was about it. And that seemed to be the trend everywhere.

KING: And that seems to be good news. But remind us why authorities were so worried about this past weekend, the past few days.

MCCAMMON: Yeah. The FBI has been warning of the possibility of armed protests leading up to Wednesday's inauguration. And the fear is that extremists who refuse to accept President Trump's election loss will stoke more violence, much like what we saw on January 6 in Washington. And some of those concerns are based on the words of the rioters themselves. For example, in footage released by The New Yorker, you can hear some of them calling for insurrectionists to storm their own state capitols and launch attacks on elected officials at home. So there's good reason for this heightened state of alert. And law enforcement agencies have been making their presence known in very visible large numbers.

KING: What else do we know about extremist plans? Even if they're not coming out in large numbers right now, what are they saying?

MCCAMMON: Yeah, a couple of things are going on according to extremism experts I've been speaking to. Extremists don't have Parler right now, for example. They've lost access to some of those social media platforms where a lot of the violent organizing was taking place. And we're told that a lot of these groups, like the Proud Boys, are laying low for now. Oren Segal with the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism told me the online chatter he's seeing indicates that some of these groups kind of want to wait things out.

OREN SEGAL: I think people are spooked by the fact that there have been many arrests. I think in some cases, they think that the events that are being planned are honeypots that are created to get them in trouble. And so we've seen a lot of pushback about actually showing up.

KING: OK, that's really interesting. They want to avoid a trap, essentially, is what he's saying. Joe Biden will be sworn in on Wednesday. So let me ask you what authorities are watching out for this week.

MCCAMMON: Well, the heavy law enforcement presence continues at capitols around the country. One we're watching right now is Richmond, Va., where there's an annual gun rights rally today. Last year, it drew thousands of heavily armed protesters. And nationwide extremism experts say the big question is what happens long term, not just this week.

KING: NPR's Sarah McCammon. Thanks, Sarah.

MCCAMMON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sarah McCammon worked for Iowa Public Radio as Morning Edition Host from January 2010 until December 2013.
Sarah McCammon
Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.
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